Liberty department store parent Marylebone Warwick Balfour revealed today that its earnings in 2008 are set to be about 10 per cent lower than market expectations, although higher than those recorded in 2007.
So, the retail-to-hotels group will be hoping that the relaunch of the iconic department store on Saturday will lift performance at the group, which also holds stakes in chic hotel chains Malmaison and Hotel du Vin.
The iconic Great Marlborough Street store has had a bumpy ride in recent years. Former chief executive Iain Renwick left suddenly in 2007 midway through his turnaround strategy. The retailer has been dogged by rumours of a sale and losses have widened.
Current boss and luxury brands man Geoffroy de La Bourdonnaye has come in to add a little spice to the retailer, once renowned for the finest and rarest of fashion and design.
Dubbed his “Retail Renaissance”, Saturday will see the rebirth of the luxury retailer much loved by connoisseurs of all things avant-garde, which has counted among its patrons names such as Oscar Wilde.
The former Lacroix man, de La Bourdonnaye, has been instrumental in extending the reach and awareness of the retailer since he was drafted in by Marylebone Warwick Balfour. He has worked with his team, which includes creative guru Yasmin Sewell, to expand the retailer’s exclusive top-end brands and establish a sharp new look and layout for the store. Service levels and communication with the customer have been at the forefront of the turnaround plans.
The push back to Liberty’s beginnings in 1875 as a retailer synonymous with innovative design should be a winning formula for de La Bourdonnaye. Reasserting Liberty's position at the high level he is aspiring to may also prove somewhat recession-proof as long as the wealthy keep visiting. The new store look and exciting brands portfolio should drive footfall.
Liberty is a long way from generating the kind of affection that customers feel for its successful, more mainstream rival Selfridges, but it is on the right path towards being held in the same reverence by shoppers as its rival up the road.
Liberty’s relaunch on Valentine’s Day should make consumers fall in love with the iconic store all over again.